The Bundesliga has seen the most goals across Europe’s five major leagues over the last 20 years; Germany are the defending world champions; The youth academy system is the envy of world football, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows…
For every Arjen Robben or Marco Reus lifting fans off their seats in ecstasy, there has been more than the odd equivalent of Vinnie Jones or Roy Keane getting onlookers on their feet for rather different reasons. bundesliga.com trains its microscope on the Top 5 bad boys to have “graced” the division…
1) Stefan Effenberg
Who else could lead a list like this?! While there is zero question that Effenberg remains one of Germany’s greatest midfielders – he led Bayern to the double of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League in 2001 – he was the epitome of genius dipping into madness sometimes. Der Tiger got his teeth into more than a few opponents, ending an otherwise glittering career with a record 114 yellow cards to his name. No other player has reached triple digits.
Sent home from the USA ’94 World Cup after, let’s say, letting Germany fans know what he thought of their jeers after being subbed off for a poor performance against South Korea in Dallas, Effenberg remained unapologetic about his style until the last. “Most players see their job as 90 minutes of football, then drive home,” he once said. “But I'm not interested in them. This job means more to me than that. There’s a show business element, you have to get the place buzzing. The fans want characters and good entertainment.”
2) Jermaine Jones
Jones may only have mustered 56 Bundesliga yellow cards to Effenberg’s 114, but the Frankfurt-born former USA international certainly knew how to put himself about. Jones was suspended for six games in 2012 – at the peak of his powers – after being found to have deliberately stamped on Reus’ recently broken toe when the then-Gladbach star was discussing a decision with the referee during a clash with Jones’ Schalke.
Jones and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar were sent for extra laps in training that same season after coming to blows, and a day later the former Germany U21 midfielder went down holding his face in a 1-1 draw with Augsburg after a challenge which only struck his hand. After leaving the Bundesliga on loan in 2011, he made 15 English Premier League starts for Blackburn Rovers and picked up eight yellow cards in total, becoming a firm fan favourite in the process.
3) Tim Wiese
While former Bayern stopper Oliver Kahn’s kung-fu prowess would make him a worthy inclusion in this list, Tim Wiese’s attitude and antics must be acknowledged. The 6’4” giant made a name for himself at Werder Bremen. In 2007, he made headlines for all the wrong reasons after a clearance kick gone wrong landed square in Ivica Olic’s clavicle during the Nordderby against Hamburg. Franz Beckenbauer assessed the incident as “attempted murder” at the time and an anonymous Hamburg resident even pressed charges with the police! Wiese walked out of the whole situation with only a yellow card as punishment.
Watch: Tim Wiese takes on the WWE!
In 2011, he was sent off after an unnecessary foul outside the box on Thomas Müller, which was made worse by the fact that they were teammates on the German national team. After retiring from football in 2014, Wiese began preparations to enter the ring in a different sport, literally. Under the nickname “The Machine”, Wiese became a professional wrestler and made his WWE debut in November 2016. Since retiring from football, the former keeper has gained a reported 60 pounds of lean muscle mass so he certainly looks the part should the wrestling gig pan out in the long term.
4) Mark van Bommel
Position: Defensive midfield
Bundesliga clubs: Bayern Munich
Years active: 1992-2013
"I was always a calm player," van Bommel once told an Austrian newspaper, before bursting into laughter. "Perhaps I was sometimes just too keen to have the ball, and overstepped the line trying to get it ... my style of play was robust."
Robust is perhaps putting it mildly. It is quite an achievement to play alongside Luiz Gustavo at club level and Nigel de Jong at international level, yet to be regarded as harder than both put together. Indeed, while van Bommel had more to his game than just scything late tackles and off-the-ball rambunctiousness – you don't have a CV reading PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Bayern and AC Milan without being a half-decent player – he was absolutely hard as nails, the sort of man you'd want on your side in a bar fight. Averaging a yellow card once every three Bundesliga games, the Dutchman received nine suspensions in four-and-a-half seasons in Germany.
The holding midfielder was equally feisty in an Oranje shirt, and picked up the first yellow card of the infamous Battle of Nuremberg at the 2006 FIFA World Cup – essentially sparking a 90-minute mass brawl in which more cards were shown (16) than any other game in a FIFA tournament. Combustible off the field, too, van Bommel left Bayern for Milan in January 2011 after a falling out with compatriot Louis van Gaal. As hated as he was by opposition, he was loved by his team-mates: the Bavarians' first non-German captain, van Bommel helped Robben settle into life in Munich in 2009. As he himself said: "Football will always have to have its characters because they allow the artists to express themselves."
5) Walter Frosch
Bundesliga clubs: Kaiserslautern, St. Pauli
Years active: 1970-1985
A man so hard that hard men until the end of time will occasionally be caught muttering his name under their breath, shaking their head: meet Walter Frosch, whose remarkable 19 bookings in the 1976/77 season as St. Pauli were promoted to the Bundesliga led to the DFB (German Football Association) introducing a suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. His only regret, he quipped later, was that he didn't reach 20, as that was a round number.
Watch: Frosch's hilarious interview with a cigarette packet inside his sock!
Incredibly for all those bookings, Frosch was only sent off once in his career, although his chequered disciplinary record is not his only claim to fame. A decent enough defender – best known for his pace and most feared for his precise sliding tackles - to be considered for international selection, when called up to the Germany B-Team in the late 1970s, Frosch replied: "Walter Frosch only plays in either the A-Team, or the World XI." Also a chain smoker, the sweeper once gave an interview after a testimonial with a packet of cigarettes tucked inside his left sock, saying he was brought on so quickly he had no time to put them anywhere else.
Cigarettes were not Frosch's only vice. When asked after his career to name his toughest opponent, he swiftly replied: "the pub". Before a game against Schalke he once enjoyed "a couple of ouzos" and – it was later revealed – 10 litres of beer as a prize for winning a 3am race against friends. He proceeded to mark Erwin Kremers, the Royal Blues' nifty left-winger, out of the game while fighting a hangover.